In the Twenties, everything was big in Texas: oil, land speculation, agriculture and the railroads. As people struck it rich, they built fancy hotels; Art Deco highrises where cowboys and carpetbaggers could spend their brand new money in comfort and high style. All the hotels had marble lobbies, and a rooftop lounge. Sipping a drink up top one of these hotels, you knew your place in the order of things; you were on top of the world. Most of these hotels even weathered the Depression. But then the interstates came, and that was that. The old downtowns of Texas started to die, and so did the highrise hotels. Some of them hung on for a while as retirement homes or flophouses. But most of them simply closed. Too big and too expensive to knock down, they just stand there, full of pigeons and dust and that's about it.
|This is the Baker in Mineral Wells, a town once known for its mineral waters. Most of the second floor was a health club, full of high-pressure showers and message machines. Now the place is empty, except for a ghost or two. Local retirees organize tours now and then.|
|There are old Hiltons throughout Texas. I guess the hotel chain prefers the prefab boxes they build nowadays to the big Art Deco towers they used to build. This one is in Plainview.|
|Here's the old Laguna in Cisco. Cisco is where Conrad Hilton opened his very first hotel. It's still there, a little building that houses the Chamber of Commerce. The Laguna hasn't been so lucky. It's owned by the local community college, and the drama department uses a couple floors to store props and costumes. Last time I was in town, you could sneak in through a door in the back.|
|The Connellee is in Eastland, an old oil boomtown that's not far from Cisco.The day I visited, some guy was in the lobby, yanking the plywood off the windows. We're the first people to look out the lobby windows in twenty years, the guy said. I asked him what his plans were, but he wouldn't say. Out front, there's a neon sign that says it's the Village Hotel. That's what the place was called just before it closed for good.|